Anytime I travel to a new area within Mexico, I fall deeper in love with the unique culture that abounds around every corner. The country is full of color, flavor, and adventure and San Miguel de Allende is no exception.
Known as the Heart of Mexico (because it’s literally in the middle of country), this beautiful town of about 175,000 is a perfect getaway for those that are looking for a trip that doesn’t require extensive planning. It’s the ideal spot for those wanting a romantic couples getaway or an adventurous solo retreat. San Miguel de Allende is simple, yet sexy….you know? And I guarantee that once you take the trip, you will fall in love: with the people, the food, and life itself.
Getting to San Miguel de Allende is simple, but nonetheless requires some pre-planning. If you’re lucky enough to be a Southern Californian you can score a cheap flight by flying out of the Tijuana Airport. This is totally my fave travel hack of the moment. My round trip flight into Guanajato International Airport (BJX) was only $120. AKA: a steal. You do have to tack on the $30 round trip ticket to use the Cross Border Xpress (CBX) that takes you directly from San Diego into the Tijuana Airport, but still, $150 to get to and from Mexico? Ain’t bad.
Before you go you will also want to book your shuttle to and from San Miguel de Allende through BajioGo.com. The service is about $45 round trip, and they wait for you in the airport holding a sign with your name on it, so you get to start the weekend pretending you’re a bit more boujee than you actually are. My favorite.
Once your winding hour and a half shuttle ride has ended, you will find yourself in a quaint town lined in buildings painted the warmest shades of reds, oranges and yellows. The roads will be paved in cobblestone streets and dotted with soulful mariachi bands. And most notably, the soaring pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel will be towering over you. This could only mean one thing…you have arrived to beautiful San Miguel de Allende!
To be real with you guys, the only reason I even know San Miguel de Allende exists is because my aunt lives here for part of the year. It’s not like I knew absolutely anything about this area before I got there. This family connection also means that I didn’t have to book a hotel while there, but upon a quick browse you will see that there are TONS of hotels for as low as $50 a night. No matter where you’re staying, you will be in walking distance to most of the town.
Traveling around San Miguel de Allende is easy. If you aren’t keen on walking everywhere, taxis can take you anywhere in SMA for less than $5 USD. It’s a very walkable town, but the cobblestone, hills, and elevation do add some difficulty. I also highly recommend taking a trolley tour on your first day so that you can acclimate with your surroundings a bit quicker. The trolley waits for guests at Juarez St. (on the side of San Francisco’s Church) and usually has a tour leaving every 20 minutes. The tour lasts about an hour and costs roughly $3 a person.
What to Wear
San Miguel de Allende weather in the Winter is perfect. We went in January, and every day was literally 70 degrees and sunny. While Mexico is a conservative country, the vibe in SMA is casual and relaxed. If you’re doing it for the ‘Gram, you’ll want to bring your bright and beautiful sundresses. SMA does get chilly at night, but no need for anything more than a light jacket. And above all else: bring good walking shoes. Walking on cobblestone is no joke.
Where to Eat
This could be its own blog post itself because if there is any reason at all to go to San Miguel de Allende…it is definitely the food. As SMA is a tourist destination, there is every type of cuisine you could want, but why would you want anything except, good, authentic Mexican food?
For breakfast, whether you’re craving chilaquiles or a simple egg dish, Rincon de Don Tomas is a cheap and solid choice for your first day in town. The small restaurant is located in the city center and has a beautiful courtyard where you can soak up the ambiance of SMA. Make sure to order a cappuccino with Kahlua if you’re feelin’ saucy. Also, don’t be surprised if you get approached by children and vendors selling their goods during your meal. A firm but friendly “No” will send them on their way.
Another fabulous breakfast option is Juan’s Cafe, which is a small spot hidden amidst the streets of San Miguel de Allende. Once inside, you’ll notice beautiful paintings from local artists and flyers announcing New Age workshops dotting the walls. If you’re traveling alone, this is a great stop; the staff will encourage you to join a table where other guests, likely other tourists, are already seated. Along with serving fresh-squeezed orange juice, the cafe boasts it has the “Strongest coffee in SMA” so…you know what to do.
When it’s time for lunch or dinner, your options are aplenty and you really can’t make a “bad” decision. For tacos, I cannot recommend Sabroso Taqueria enough. Make sure to sit on the rooftop. The tacos here rang from $1-$2 USD each, and were AMAZING. I got the arrachera with cheese (the cheese is extra and worth every peso), the al pastor, and carne asada. I am still reminiscing on each of them until this day.
While meandering around one day, we were clued in on a “cheap and authentic” Mexican food spot called La Alborada. While this spot is cash only, it is worth it to get pesos out of the ATM to eat here. I got the enmoladas (enchiladas with mole sauce) and honestly…words do not do them justice. And maybe the best part of all? For three of us to eat and enjoy several cervezas…the check was only $27.
Where to Drink
Now…. for the fun stuff. Haha! There are so many beautiful rooftop venues in San Miguel de Allende that offer you amazing views with your drinks. Perhaps the best of all, is the view from Luna at the Rosewood Hotel. While the drinks aren’t cheap, the views of San Miguel are worth the money. My favorite cocktail on the menu is the Mezcal Damiana: a cocktail made with mezcal, damiana liqueur, pineapple, coriander, and honey served up in a golden pineapple. This divine combination makes for a perfect midday pause in a busy day. So much so, that we went twice during the weekend.
Now, when nighttime hits there are two things that matter: good music and good drinks. Right? Well, you have a few options in San Miguel de Allende- everything from full blown clubs to sexy rooftops. Luckily, I did the dirty work for you to figure out the best of both worlds.
To start the night, beer and mezcal shots at Cielo are a must. The view of the Parroquia is PHENOMENAL, as is the service. On top of this, they played the entire Disclosure discography the entire time I was there. It was everything I ever dreamed.
If you’re in the dancing mood post Cielo, there are a couple of options. We opted for El Grito: San Miguel de Allende’s trendy club tailored to energetic young adults. Keep in mind there is a door fee and you are expected to be slightly dressed up. Once inside, mezcal margaritas are only $6 each and the DJ has Global Top 40 music blaring. If this isn’t your thing, Mama Mia across the way is more sultry and usually has a live band.
Where to Shop
Much of the San Miguel de Allende charm can be discovered just by wandering the streets. You never know what hidden courtyard, art gallery, or painted mural you’ll stumble upon. The beauty is found in enjoying the city without a plan, but there are a few stops that are musts.
Most of the shops in SMA sell much of the same embroidered clothing and fabrics, and this city isn’t really the best destination for fashionistas. However, if you are looking for some boho chic clothes and flowy dresses, you must make a stop at Marrakech located in the City Central. If you love art that breaks boundaries, the Lorenzo Y Taquito Jocoque Art Gallery is truly, one of a kind.
Further away from the center of town, you will find the expansive Mercado de Artesanias. The market is open 9am to 7pm everyday, and is where local vendors can be found selling their goods; everything from woven rugs to gorgeous lanterns to creepy puppets is on display. However, the assortment of silver jewelry in here is what really makes this stop worth it. It may not look like much from the outside, but you can easily get lost in there for an hour.
Whenever I find myself in Mexico, I always have a sort of “ritualistic” stop, and that is – you guessed it- a pharmacy. Most of you know by now that I am a skincare junkie, and one of my favorite standby products is Retin-A. I am too lazy to set up a dermatologist appointment to get it in America, so this is always where I stock up.
Now, while I only cracked the surface of all that San Miguel de Allende has to offer, this should be a good starting point for you. If you’re looking for a place to escape to that is slow paced, yet high quality, this is it. May you find the time, soon, to slip away and enjoy some peace and rejuvenation.
Let me know if you make the trip.